I've already professed my affection for the sadly late Hudson and Halls (they made a chicken salad and named it after a New Zealand beauty queen!) but it's the kind of thing that I can easily re-profess without feeling like I've exhausted my capacity for...professing stuff. Their cookbooks were so full of enjoyment and playfulness and humour. Which cookbooks often completely lack. They'd write "nothing is more boring to do than pickled onions, but despite this, these are worth doing", beside a recipe for pickled onions. Cute, right? Always remembering, they were figures of entertainment at a time when being themselves - being gay - was illegal. As I've said, we're not exactly in a progressive wonderland these days, but I wonder what their lives together could've been under a somewhat more supportive environment. While your time wouldn't be misspent just reading through their cookbooks tittering at their formidably late-seventies recipes - Tomato Sorbet, Egg Mayonnaise with Olives, Tripe Fritters, Steak Tartare Balls with Caviar...Coffee...there are also heaps of practical, easy, fun recipes that you could try making.
Recipes like their Super-duper Pancake. I promise you it's totally deserving of that intensifying "-duper" suffix on the end there. That grammatical flourish was not in vain.
It looks like there's a benignly smiling bearded face in that pancake, right? Is it just me projecting my loving feelings towards the pancake, onto the pancake? I think yes. And yes. Also please excuse my unpleasingly granular photography, it must've been darker than I thought when I took the photos. It'll make you appreciate it more when they improve, though!
This is really your average Yorkshire Pudding - you could always use it for that - and I love that H&H suggest it as a meal in itself, "with lemon wedges and sugar, or little bits of fried sausage and pickles"...very cool. They recommend using a paella dish but I don't have one of those, or a frying pan that can go in the oven, but I suspected that my ancient pie plate would do the trick. It did. Which makes me think you could make this in nearly anything ovenproof and round, as long as it has walls - a caketin would probably work just fine.
Such little effort and you end up with this puffy, crisp disc of daffodill-coloured, comforting goodness. Somehow it tastes like french toast, pastry, scrambled eggs and yes, pancake, all at once. That's some high-level complexity from just eggs, flour, milk and butter. I served it alongside steak and an avocado-spinach salad but on its own it'd be brilliant.
From Hudson and Halls Gourmet Cookbook.
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
Put the butter in your chosen pan and place it in a 225 C oven to heat up and sizzle away while you mix the batter. Beat the eggs till light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the milk. This is what's going to make it puff up so try not to be lazy with the whisking effort at this stage. Whisk in the flour, making sure there's no lumps, then quickly pour the batter into the hot, buttery tin. Place quickly back in the oven, bake for 20-25 minutes and serve immediately in the pan. Just slice it up or rip bits off, as you please.
Two things happened when I made this which might have something to do with the pan I used. First: some of the butter pooled on top in the centre of the pancake. To the uninitiated it might look a little terrifying, I took it within my stride (the only alarming butter situation I can think of is if there is none) and reframed the pancake as 'considerately self-buttering.' Also some of the surface coating of the pan flaked off and stuck to the pancake. Slightly disturbing, but...I ate it anyway. Hope it doesn't happen to you.
The recipe on the page opposite the Super-duper pancake is equally compelling - Scrambled Eggs with Vermouth. How good does that sound? I'd need to actually get some vermouth first, the last time I had it was in 2008 - you can see it in the header photo - before I could even pronounce it properly. They say "As this is rather nice for breakfast, serve it with some chilled champagne and follow with fresh fruit and cream laced with a liqueur." Wherever you are, Hudson and Halls...cheers.
Talking of luxuriating in food, I recently had my misanthropic tendencies gently sieved out when something really lovely happened: I got invited to try out 'The Deg' degustation at Matterhorn, one of the fancy-pantsiest joints in the whole country. Yes, invited. My first degustation. Very exciting. Eventually Tim and I hope to feel like we're not in some kind of Home Alone 2-esque heist whenever things like this happen. The food was ornately exquisite the whole way through, with matched cocktails - beautifully dry - and wines - nicer than we've ever drank - and not in an intimidating way either, but also not so unintimidating that you leave thinking you could've done it yourself, you know? The person in charge of us was charming and engaging and gave us plenty of exposition on each course and - this always puts me in a good mood, so keep it in mind - they talked to us about the food and wine as if they thought we knew exactly what they were talking about. Did I explain that right? We weren't talked down to, is what I'm saying. So if you're really comfortable with your bank balance I do recommend it because it was an absolutely glorious evening. Fun fact: on our first course we raised a toast. To the internet. For getting us to dinner at the Matterhorn. Truly, we clinked our glasses and said "thank you, Internet." (It was my suggestion, Tim might not've been so enthusiastic or loud.) Also, even though it sometimes feels like one of those things you do to prove you're having fun, we spent some time making up dialogue for various diners around us, which was all very humourous until this couple opposite us had such gloomy body language that it wasn't as fun anymore. Where was I? Matterhorn. Delicious.
It's been a simple weekend, but I've managed to spend much of it with beloved friends, which is worth more than a billion degustations laid end to end so they reach the sun, or something.
Title via: Puttin' On The Ritz, that intriguingly arranged song which hoofer Fred Astaire totally owns - his subtlety and assuredness in this tap dancing number is utterly brilliant. Fun fact: I once ambitiously choreographed, taught and danced in a dance to this for some choir performance thing in primary school, when I was about ten. It wasn't, er, quite as good as Fred Astaire's, and our canes were bits of dowelling, but if I remember right it was quite well received.
Be warned: Will Swenson (erstwhile cast member of erstwhile Broadway show Hair) is one of THE most beautiful people on earth. And in this song Donna from Hair, he's NOT WEARING PANTS. So. Also he has an amazing voice and we both dance very similarly, which is always something that endears me to people. (A further fun fact!)
R.I.P Etta James.
Next time: I've been working on some sorbet using Whittaker's Berry and Biscuit chocolate. That is all.